Welcome to ALC201 Exploring New Media: Users, Settings, Implications

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A quick welcome video for students of the Deakin University undergraduate unit ALC201 Exploring New Media: Users, Settings, Implications…

Subscribing to this blog is one way to obtain updates about the unit (if you check email often, this will be a useful strategy for you). I’ll also post some further ALC201-related reflections here throughout the weeks ahead. I recommend you subscribe to my YouTube channel itself as well (particularly if you’ve never done this before), and I’ll be very active on Twitter (both via @textualworld and @digitalzones) throughout the trimester. It would be a great idea to get into the habit of checking out the #ALC201 hashtag every now and then – hopefully, the tweets here will originate from me less and less as we move forward… And, or course, be sure to check CloudDeakin on a regular basis.

Please note that I will be posting some tweets/messages/videos that are not specifically related to ALC201 from time to time. Feel free to share useful links and engage in discussion in any forum you wish and, as noted in the video, please ensure that you behave in a considerate and ethical manner at all times – and contact me at any stage if you have any concerns.

Good luck, and as Dolph Lundgren said in a 1987 classic that was a bit of a Star Wars rip-off but nonetheless had its merits: ‘Good journey’!


Engaging Communities Both Online and Off: Being a ‘Strategic Academic’… or trying to be!

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on this blog, and the irony now occurs to me that I’ve let this site go ‘quiet’ so long after a presentation I delivered last year. In August I was invited to give a talk as part of ‘The Strategic Academic’ workshop convened by Deakin University’s Faculty of Arts and Education. I called the presentation ‘Be(ing) Visible Through Virtual and Non-Virtual Community Engagement’ and tried to put into practice some of the ideas I would talk about in relation to using digital media for research purposes. So instead of the usual PowerPoint slideshow that I’ve used in the past, I wanted to experiment with making a video with visuals for me to talk over. As I warned everyone on the day, I hadn’t tried this before so may well have found myself either trying to catch up to the video or waiting for it to catch up to me. This is what happened…

Thanks for watching!

Looking into Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror… The End of ALC201, and Your Beginning

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‘Who do you think is powering that spotlight?!’

Some reflections compiled during a seminar screening of ‘Fifty Million Merits’ in 2013

(episode 2 of Black Mirror, season 1)

There’s something remarkable in the moment when the last frame of a film fades to black, the credits begin to roll, and the audience is dead silent in the stillness; when there’s no immediate movement for the door as everyone sits still in their seats, half stunned and half pondering the world… Not many films achieve this. Mostly, the herd of viewers rustle toward the door, crunching popcorn underfoot that’s soon to be swept up by anonymous and ignored cleaners. The crowd then dissipates, heading for the car or the boutique coffee shop or the nearby store to buy a new hat… maybe a real one, maybe not.

Although it wasn’t screened at a cinema, Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror is one such production. When I screened the episode ‘Fifty Million Merits’ to a class yesterday, the students were at first (and only at first) speechless – and I dare say the present screening will have the same result. This is perhaps predictable on the one hand given the expert building of tension within the tightly wound plot, combined with the unsentimental and anti-redemptory lack of closure. Plus the film begs far more questions than it answers. But I think the silence stems from something else too. The episode hits hard, implicating its audience in a dystopian scenario that offers a sharp and wide-ranging critique of present day digital screen culture through a depiction of a not-so-distant ‘future’.

From the humiliation of people as ‘fake fodder’ on Reality TV; to the absurdity of the consumption of virtual goods for aesthetic purposes; to the bullying of people with large body sizes who have been demonised by violent computer games; to the blurred dividing line between pornography and celebrity culture; to the reliance of identity construction on ‘buying shit'; to the reinforcement of sexist, racist, and classist ideologies through both the media and the very structures of society; to the fundamental undermining of conventional conceptions of ‘truth’ and ‘reality'; ‘Fifty Million Merits’ has it all, and then some.

The protagonist Bing (played so powerfully by Daniel Kaluuya, also of the 2010 drama Chatroom) tells Abi: ‘It’s all just stuff. It’s… stuff. It’s confetti… When I look around here, I just want something real to happen. For once…’ Nothing is real for Bing anymore, and even his climactic act of subversion is neatly packaged, commodified and filtered by the inescapable structures that govern his life. The ‘reality’ of the imagery in the last frame remains ambiguous, for all time. Yet when we consider aspects of ‘our world’ – the program ‘options’ in prime time slots on our television schedules, or the ethnic origin of the ‘enemies’ in the latest combat console game, or the YouTube advertisements that can only be skipped after a short time or not at all – this film is clearly very ‘real’ (whatever that means…)

We might leave Black Mirror once the credits roll, but it might also choose to stay with us. Perhaps if we earn enough merits we can set it aside and forget about it. Why not take another cup of cuppliance and stress less? That spotlight won’t power itself…

One last thought (from 2014)…

I’ve seen this episode at least a dozen times now, and the significance of its wide-ranging critique continues to grow on me. Are the young people who ride those bikes, who power the entertainment ‘machine’, who seem to (at least in the vast majority of cases) unthinkingly devour problematic ideological messages through their ever-present screens, the ‘Digital Natives’ or ‘Generation Next’ conceptualised by political leaders, journalists, universities, industry employers, and those who promote a Media Studies 2.0 approach? Are they the produsers or prosumers that we’ve been trying to be throughout ALC201 Exploring New Media? Or are they just consumers – those who do not create, share, participate, and collaborate? We’ve seen a variety of student activities across the consumer-prosumer spectrum throughout the year… What have you been?

And what will you be in the future…?

With this question in mind, I strongly suggest you watch the following video:

‘Big Brother, I See You': Ideology and Surveillance in Film

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For this week’s meLecture, I decided to focus solely on assignment advice through a few more in-seminar open discussions. I was hoping it would be one fifteen minute video max, but once we got going (and even after some fine editing) I couldn’t avoid having two parts… then again, less is not always more in some areas :)

Hope this helps! (given that I actually received an email thanking me for the very valuable poitns in this meLecture from a PhD student in Turkey who is not involved with the course or in any way assoicated with Deakin University, I’d say it might be useful… and it underlines the reach you can get when you leave a lecture theatre and visit cyberspace instead!

Naturalising New Media: Cultural Representations of the Digital World

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This week’s meLecture takes us into Module 3: ‘Mediating New Media’. The videos survey representations of digital media across a number of genres, including novels, console games, board games (or at least one board game, as there aren’t many examples that fit with our focus here – which is significant in itself), and feature films… I’m currently typing this post while watching Aaron Eckhart have his emails, bank account, mobile phone access, and other facets of his digital identity completely erased by what seems to be some malicious organisation. Right now he’s telling his young daughter to ‘keep your head down – they can’t identify you if they can’t get a full profile’. Now he’s walking across the foyer using a small piece of paper to disguise his face amidst the surveillance devices surrounding them.

Ah, they’re everywhere. The cameras, and the films about them…


The Future of the Past: Digital Heritage, Visitor-Viewsers, and Virtual Museums

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I broke a personal record this week and actually made a meLecture in four parts. This wasn’t entirely intentional, but when you have a conversation with an industry practitioner who is saying brilliant things, vicious editing just feels, well, offensive! So you’ll have to forgive my audio-visual ‘verbosity’, but while I generally focus on quality over quantity, I think that in this case, the longer the better!

Enjoy :)

And a bonus few videos focusing on the Jewish Holocaust Centre, the location of our recent field trip:

New Media and the Law: From Sexting to Trial by Social Media

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At the upcoming field trip to the Jewish Holocaust Centre, feminist media scholar Dr Deb Waterhouse-Watson is going to deliver what I’m sure will be a riveting guest lecture on the complexities of how digital media has recently intersected (often in a problematic way) with potential and actual legal proceedings. A ‘teaser’ for this lecture – which I highly recommend you access before attending the field trip if possible – is included as part of this week’s meLecture…

And if that’s not enticement enough, Tiffany makes a guest appearance as well :)